On the Genocide Conference in Yerevan, H.Res.252, and the Armenian Government


BY HOURIG MAYISSIAN

The Armenian government recently hosted an international conference on genocide prevention, condemnation, and elimination in Yerevan. Genocide scholars from around 20 countries gathered in Yerevan in what could be considered as one of the Armenian government’s rare acts aimed at proactively seeking international acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide. While we can’t but applaud this initiative, we also can’t help but say it was a belated effort and not enough on its own.

The conference was helpful in inviting public attention to the issue not only in Armenia and the Diaspora but also internationally, given the level of international participation in it. Once again, it dealt a blow to denialists in Turkey and abroad by providing an opportunity for high caliber genocide scholars of different nationalities to throw their support behind the truthfulness of the Armenian Genocide. It was a slap in Turkey’s face and its attempts to undermine the historical truth of the Armenian Genocide through such attempts as setting up a historians’ commission to discuss historical issues between the two nations.

However, the initiative was belated, because while successive Armenian governments since Robert Kocharian’s presidency at least have declared that recognition of the Armenian Genocide is on Armenia’s foreign policy agenda, this can be considered as the first major proactive (emphasis on the word proactive) initiative of its kind undertaken by Yerevan.

More than coming late, however, this conference is not enough effort on the part of the Armenian government to show that it takes this matter seriously. Notwithstanding public declarations on the importance for international recognition of the Armenian Genocide, little government action has been seen on this front so far. Yes, almost all official dignitaries, diplomats, and foreign government officials who visit Yerevan are taken to the Genocide Memorial in Dzidzernagapert. Yes, the issue has been raised on a few occasions in presidential speeches to the international community, including at the UN. However, little has been seen or at least made public in terms of consistent and serious efforts to pursue genocide recognition.

Robert Kocharian’s administration at least smartly avoided falling in the cunning Turkish trap of “leaving history to the historians” by rejecting a proposal for setting up a commission of historians that first surfaced in a letter by then-Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul in April 2005. It’s silly to say Sarkisian was not smart enough to avoid the trap. By then, the idea had been discussed so much that no one in their right mind could deny its implications on the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Sarkisian did it anyway, though. In 2009, he signed the infamous Turkish-Armenian protocols, one of the stipulations of which was the formation of exactly such a commission. His reasons? Unprecedented international pressure, continued blockade and economic isolation, continued deadlock in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace talks, coupled with intense militarization in Azerbaijan, awareness of growing Turkish influence in the region, and perhaps to some extent a gradual shift in Russia’s attitudes due to military and energy deals with Turkey and Azerbaijan.

With the failure of the protocols in the face of consistent Turkish efforts to tie Armenian-Turkish normalization to the resolution of the Karabakh conflict and what Sarkisian has started to consider as a lack of sincerity towards reconciliation in Turkey, the genocide conference could have signaled renewed effort on behalf of the Armenian government to assure that it stands on moral high ground when it comes to this issue. Could have, but as far as I’m concerned, it did not.

In fact, only a few weeks after the international conference in Yerevan, the Armenian National Committee of America started pushing U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to schedule a vote on H.Res.252, a resolution recognizing the Armenian Genocide, in the U.S. House of Representatives. The resolution had previously been adopted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee in March 2010. The ANCA assured that Pelosi had the opportunity and the majority to schedule a vote on the resolution just before the House adjourned its session for the year.

In the final days of the sitting, Washington witnessed one of the most intense confrontations between the Turkish and Armenian lobby groups in history.

On the Armenian side it was the ANCA, the Armenian schools, the church, the individuals in our community, anti-genocide activists, and Armenian celebrities the like of Kim Kardashian and Serj Tankian. Advocating the Turkish “cause,” however, was a state-sponsored lobby machine channeled through such influential mediums as the Congressional Turkish Caucus.

Moreover, Turkish pressure was exercised directly by Turkish government officials. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called his American counterpart Hillary Clinton, while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote a letter to President Barack Obama, both with the intention of getting senior U.S. officials to pressure the House Speaker into avoiding a vote on the resolution. The Turkish ambassador in Washington, Namik Tan, used every tool at his disposal, including Twitter, to lobby against H.Res.252. All of this demonstrates the vigilance of the Turkish administration on issues related to the Armenian Genocide, and their preparedness, time and again, to go above and beyond in their efforts to block any measure that might lead to its recognition.

The question that begs itself: Where was the Armenian government? Where was our ambassador in Washington when Armenian students, clergy, community members, and celebrities were working day and night sending emails, calling Pelosi’s office, publicizing the issue to fellow Armenian Americans and American citizens at large? Was a statement of support deemed too much? Where was Eduard Nalbandian? Was he worried that if he were to publicly support the resolution and ask the American administration to take the right stance on this issue normalization efforts with Turkey would go even further downhill? If so, why make declarations on the need to recognize the Armenian Genocide in general? Why organize a conference in Yerevan? Whatever the calculations of the Armenian government were, and it is not too difficult to guess them, the bottom line is it missed yet another perfect opportunity to translate statements into action on the issue of genocide recognition.

That being said, it is never too late. More resolutions dealing with Armenian Genocide recognition will be presented to the U.S. Congress and legislative bodies in countries across the world in the future. It is not unreasonable to expect that while the groundwork is done by Armenian lobbying organizations, the Armenian government should throw its weight behind these efforts even if at the ambassadorial level only. This would provide moral support to our activists. It would demonstrate to foreign governments that this is Yerevan’s fight, too, and not just that of the Armenian people. And by doing so, add a new kind of legitimacy to the struggle for genocide recognition.

Houry Mayissian has studied European politics and society at the University of Oxford, specializing on Armenia’s European integration. She currently works in communications and is a freelance writer on Armenian and South Caucasus affairs

Professors Taner Akcam (L) and Richard Hovannisian at the genocide conference in Yerevan

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11 Comments

  1. Kiazer Souze said:

    This article is a lot of bull. The Armenian community should be asking themselves where is the indignation to Kobe Bryant and the Lakers in Los Angeles for really committing the ultimate betrayals and sins? Where are our youth with regards to Boycott? They are probably watching the Lakers and buying their jerseys and getting socially engineered to buy the products and services endorsed by these greedy low life scum rapists. Before you throw stones to our brethren, you should see if your house is made of glass. I can see how this can be overlooked though if a bunch of kids write the articles or scan the blogs for which they control the commentary. God help us all.

    On a different note, the agreements signed by Armenia with Russia and Russia with Azerbaijan ensures the aggressor of war to feel the full wrath of the Russians. That means neither side can escalate to war. There will be some skirmishes, hopefully God willing, a lot more Turks/Azeris/Taliban dead than Armenians.

    And, finally, these Turks are so stupid, we need to capitalize on their deep hatred of Armenians for which they have been socially engineered.

    This anecdote explains how to capitalize on our enemies.
    A women once asked Abraham Lincoln why he was not going to destroy the enemy (the South) after the civil war to which Lincoln responded by saying “Madam, am I not destroying the enemy by making them our friends?”

    • Kiazer Souze said:

      And, I know a lot of Armenian kids with ADD (having electronic distractions) right now may misinterpret my comments to mean that we should make friends with Turks/Azeris/Taliban or Islamic Genocidal Jihadists. That is not what I am suggesting. What I am suggesting is that we should capitalize on our enemy’s follies of using hatred to attempt to destroy Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and other groups of the Christian faiths. The only way to bring the Turks to their knees is to capitalize on their follies in Courts and boycotts including anyone associated with or who has supported the Jewish Anti Defamation League. In the coming litigation for restitution, which could be years from now before resolution with Trillions of dollars at stake, any law firm that has personnel that is a member of the Jewish Anti Defamation League or has supported them in any way needs to inform their clients of the conflict of interests, so that Armenian clients can make well informed decisions as to the law firms they want to engage.

      • Kiazer Souze said:

        If American Armenian kids can’t make small discerning sacrifices with regards to Turkish products or services or those in which the Turks have their bloody hands in, then everything our Great Great Grandparents, our Great Grandparents, our Grandparents, and our Parents who fought so hard to prevent will be achieved. You see, our ancestors tried very hard to prevent us from being enslaved. Now, the Turks will indeed enslave our children with captivation…….in sports, and entertainment…..rather than higher learning.

        • Kiazer Souze said:

          They are attempting to create future addicts.

          Parents should ask their children: “Do you want to be Kings or Slaves?”

          • Kiazer Souze said:

            I have a sibling who is currently in addiction. I pray that it doesn’t happen to your siblings or children.

  2. Osik said:

    That’s what I was talking about in some other article, Unless Armenia accepts the sole ownership of the Armenian Genocide/Case as a whole and puts an official demand for Recognition and Reparations in that regards on the International Judgment tables then no country will take us seriously, I’m not saying that diaspora didn’t do anything; no in contrary I strongly believe that we kept the Torch lit and will continue to do so until Armenian Government officially steps forward and picks up that Torch from diaspora even then our job is not done and we should start more aggressively press our host countries to do what needs to be done and that’s when the Diaspora Minister becomes a very important coordinating arm of Armenian Government with the Diaspora turning our Embassies and Consulates around the world to real political power houses.

    Although this conference was not even a step on that direction but at least it was a candle of hope lit in the other end of the long and almost a Century old dark tunnel.
    God Bless Armenia

    • Kiazer Souze said:

      In a nut shell, all I am trying to say is we should follow Abraham Lincoln’s example of a stronger union by “destroying our enemies by making them our friends.” That means coordination and collaboration with Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks, Cypriots, Serbs, etc… of any political persuasion through the power of boycott. Fedayis like Monte Melkonian sacrificed a lot. Pretty soon Turkish names are going to be common place where as before they wouldn’t have stuck their ugly heads. All I am saying to parents and their children is to sacrifice a tiny bit by some silent boycotts. I am not asking them to die or go fight in senseless wars. All I am saying is perhaps the Kobe Bryant memorabilia should be put away as in the O.J. Simpson memorabilia. Is that too much to ask?

  3. Armanen said:

    It is quite possible that official Yerevan realizes that the US is not going to recognize the AG regardless of how much pressure Armenians and their allies in the US put on Congress and how many letters and calls Serj and Co. make to the idiot in the white house. Of course the Armenian government hasn’t been active in other countries where the Genocide issue was raised either. So who knows what the real reason(s) are…

    • Kiazer Souze said:

      The Armenian government is attempting to forge a stronger Union with our brothers and sisters in Artsagh. They know if the Secretary of State or the President do not come out and say they are against the resolution, then legally, Armenians can’t be blockaded in bringing forth their legal claims in our Courts in the United States. That apparently was the green light given in the 9th Circuit’s reversal. People should be aware that their are Trillions of dollars at stake for the families of the survivors. That wealth may perhaps go to our children or grandchildren to be Royalty where they control their own destiny and not subjected as slaves.

      Let us not throw stones to our brethren too hard across the pond.

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